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Students from outside Atlantic bubble in store for unique welcome at N.S. universities amid COVID-19,CBC News,on August 20, 2020 at 9:00 am
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Students from outside Atlantic bubble in store for unique welcome at N.S. universities amid COVID-19,CBC News,on August 20, 2020 at 9:00 am

“It won’t be the move-in weekend we’re used to.”

That’s how Bryn de Chastelain described what’s coming for university students like him from outside Atlantic Canada who will have to self-isolate before venturing out onto campuses this fall.

After spending time in his home province of Ontario this summer, he’s returning this week to Halifax — where he’s a student at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) and president of the student union. Following public health’s COVID-19 guidelines, he’ll have to spend his first 14 days closed off from the wider community.

With SMU’s plan to offer classes predominantly online, not all students will choose to return to campus, making it easier to accommodate physical distancing for those who do. De Chastelain said he expects dorms at SMU to be around 50 per cent capacity.

Most Nova Scotia universities are operating like SMU, with classes taking place mostly online, but Acadia University in Wolfville and St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) in Antigonish will soon be welcoming back their full student bodies for in-person classes.

At least 500 Acadia students from outside the Atlantic bubble will need to self-isolate when they arrive, likely more once international students are accounted for. Scott Duguay, Acadia’s vice-provost of students, recruitment and enrolment management, said international numbers remain uncertain because of travel restrictions.

Daily check-ins for COVID-19 symptoms

About half of those students will be moving into dorms. They’ll have meals delivered to them and will be expected to comply with a daily health check-in to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

A question mark remains concerning on-campus testing for the coronavirus.

“There’s some talk about some testing over the first 14 days for all students who arrive from outside the Atlantic bubble,” Duguay said.

The final plan for testing will be made in the coming days in collaboration with the province, he said.

Students at Acadia will start arriving in early September, as usual, but Duguay said the start of the fall term has been pushed back to Sept. 21 to give time for quarantines.

Making the best of a challenging year

Elizabeth Yeo, St FX’s vice-president of students, said some students from across Canada and abroad have already started trickling onto campus, but most will arrive on two dates at the end of August, with assigned move-in times.

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Yeo said St. FX is expecting close to 800 students from outside the Atlantic bubble and about half of those will be living on campus, where they’ll have free accommodation for their isolation period.

Like at Acadia, they’ll have meals delivered. They’ll also be provided laundry service and an assigned support person.

“It is a unique experience and we’re trying to make it memorable in the most positive ways,” said Yeo.

She said the school is trying to ease the challenges of self-isolation with mental health and resiliency sessions and other virtual programming.

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